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Get to know a leader: Bahaa Wanley

21 Feb 2016

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Why did you start working in health care?
Giving back to the community is a cultural tradition in my family—so I guess you could say I was born into it. We believe that after faith, good health is the greatest blessing. After my family emigrated from Damascus (Syria), many of my first and second generational family members entered the medical profession. In fact, I grew up helping my uncles run their private medical practices in Chicago. I started in pre-med, but realized I tended to faint at the sight of blood … so I changed my path.  

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I have a few surprises in my past. I used to be a stand-in broadcaster for the Seattle Sounders soccer team. I love basketball; my team won three out of four big Hoopfest basketball tournaments in Spokane (our age brackets). And, I grew up practicing martial arts with tae kwon do, fifth grade through high school. I have a room full of trophies from my childhood. But my sports motto now is “just don’t get hurt.”

Here’s something we noticed on his office wall:
He also received the distinguished FBI Community Leader Award for the state of Washington in 2013. The FBI chooses one recipient for each state; he received the honor at a special White House event and was honored for his work in building and bridging relationships among law enforcement and Muslim communities.

Books I’m reading now
I’m reading SWITCH, by Chip and Dan Heath. All leaders in SHMG will be reading it because it’s about adapting to change – right after we read Crucial Conversations. This is the adaptive change model SHMG will incorporate into our culture.

What’s your favorite TV program?
It’s still The Office! I watch re-runs, and I can’t stop laughing. In fact, my team at the U of Washington presented me with an honorary statue trophy from the show in 2012, called the Dundie Award. (Bahaa worked at University of Washington for 10 years, and was the lead in heading up major expansions including the UW Medicine Regional Vascular Center and UW Medicine East Side Specialty Center.

What’s on your bucket list?
You might laugh, but I just knocked one off – riding the OHSU tram! I used to drive back and forth from Seattle to Corvallis and see it from the freeway. I’m gonna ride that someday, I told myself. I attended a meeting at OHSU with Cort Garrison (thank you Cort for helping me check this off) and we rode it. My stomach sank a little but after the big dip we were fine. Still on my list—I plan to learn the Michael Jackson moonwalk, but I have a looooong way to go!

What everyday thing are you really good at?
One of my biggest strengths is going with the flow. I can adapt to whatever the moment needs from me.

Favorite restaurant in Salem
Right now, it’s Amadeus in downtown.

Is there something we haven’t asked – or that you would like to add?
I’m not sure where this fits … but I love my new nickname. It’s Ra Ha. I share it with Ralph Yates, medical director for the Salem Health Medical Group. Because of our jobs, we tend to be seen a lot together, so when they see Ralph and Bahaa coming down the hall—here comes Ra Ha.  The genius behind the nick name is Lori James-Nielson. 

P.S. Bahaa and his wife live in Corvallis and have three children, ages 7, almost 6 and 3. “She tries to fix me when I get home from work, since she’s a trained clinical social worker.”